The ups & downs
Eco news roundup Feb 2021
ON THE UP: The USA re-enters the Paris Agreement As of 20th February 2021, the US has officially re-entered the Paris Agreement. The Trump presidency was catastrophic for climate progress and this has put pressure on Biden to reverse Trump’s legacy. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, and Biden has quickly re-entered the US. His climate advisor has announced that he intends to reverse 'more than 100' negative climate policies enacted by Trump. What is the Paris Climate Agreement? This international accord shares a central aim: to address the effects of climate change by taking dramatic action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The collective goal is to stay well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In order to achieve this, countries set national goals tailored to their current environmental situation. As the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, the US pledged to reduce emissions between 26-28% (of the 2005 level) by 2025. This is a big step in both reducing the polluting effects of the US while also setting an example for smaller nations who look to Biden for guidance.
New UK Coal Mine
Plans were approved by Cumbria County Council in October last year for a new mine which will be used to extract coking coal for steel production. The committee on climate change (CCC) claim that the coal mine will produce more emissions than any others open in the UK, and the chairman, Lord Deben, said that the permission gives a ‘negative impression of the UK's climate priorities’. As well as that, ‘the mine is projected to increase UK emissions by 0.4Mt of C02e per year’.
The mine is expected to cost £165m and it would be the UK's first deep coal mine in 30 years. The council claim that there was no good reason to reject the application as it would bring up to 500 well-paid jobs to the area (80% of which will be reserved for locals), which is highly beneficial to an area that has seen years of redundancies and high unemployment rates, as well as this the project would save on imports.
Many activists such as Greta Thunberg have criticised this grant saying that it goes against the government's claims to be net-zero by 2050 and compromises the legally binding carbon budgets. Some people have taken matters into their own hands- two climate activists went on a hunger strike as a form of protest, hoping to convince ministers to rethink what they call an ‘insane’ and ‘immoral’ decision. But despite their dangerous efforts, they received no response and the government recently announced that it will not block the plans for the mine in a response to the CCC's letter. This is a classic example of the government prioritising the economy over the environment. It claims that the UK is a world leader on climate change, cutting emissions faster than any major economy, and would end the use of coal for electricity by 2025, but then acts hypocritically by taking contradicting actions. This year the UK is hosting the COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, where the Prime Minister plans to encourage countries to pursue "clean economic recoveries" despite the UK taking enormous leaps backwards.